|As marriage of convenience stories go, The Rancher’s Surprise Marriage is a tad unique. Set in the present day, the heroine is a movie star and the hero is a modern-day rancher. What makes it unique is that the reason for the marriage is a publicity issue and the timeline is to hold the wedding in six weeks, giving the couple time to really get to know each other and rethink their idea. Despite the fact that this plot has been used and abused by many, this time Crosby made me smile and laugh.
Maggie McShane has grown up as a child star. Despite losing her parents and brother in a car accident, she was raised by her grandparents in such a way that she really was grounded in the real world. She is now 31 and has never really had to do anything without her entourage, primarily a bodyguard, a personal secretary and a publicist. She is making her first western on the ranch of Tony Young. Tony is an ex-rodeo star, who got the land next to his parents’ ranch when he won the deed in a poker game. Tony is independently rich, having invested in the stock market with his rodeo winnings. However, he is trying to make the ranch he owns pay for itself.
Maggie is lonely and desperately wants a family. Tony is lonely, but has issues with his dad, a man who never really was mean to him, but didn’t really give Tony the approval that he always wanted. When Maggie’s movie star fiancé announces to her that he is in love with another woman, Maggie sneaks out and ends up at the local watering hole. She meets Tony there and they share a kiss that is caught on camera by some newspaper and plastered all over the press. They also share a major night of passion.
In desperation, Maggie comes up with the idea to say that she had broken it off with her ex but just had not announced it yet. She and Tony had been secretly engaged and it is they who are getting married in six weeks at her friend’s new hotel in San Francisco. Tony goes along with it primarily because of his attraction to Maggie. But he also has a gut feeling that it is the right thing to do. His only caveat is that he is the one who decides when the marriage will end and a divorce is obtained.
The fun thing about this plan is that Tony makes a decree that Maggie has to move in with him at his ranch, meet his family and that they need to convince everyone that they are in love. Guessing what happens does not take a MENSA member. The normal plot for this type of story follows the tradition. But the author throws in some good situations and some fun, down to earth discussions. While it is a bit improbable, the author makes it work.
Tony is a great hero, someone who is vulnerable but is an alpha male, too. When he butts head with the security guard and the publicist, it is a great battle. When he lays the law down to Maggie about their sleeping arrangements, it is endearing. And when he lets loose in the romance department, it is downright hot.
Maggie is a bit of a prima donna, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. For example, she can’t cook, but promises that she will be responsible for the meals for one whole day. So she orders from a restaurant and serves it herself. You can feel her sense of humor and at the same time, respect her ingenuity.
The Rancher’s Surprise Marriage is filled with a plot that should just be ordinary. But Susan Crosby has added some freshness to it and makes it work!